Wednesday, July 17

Sabah’s last hope in saving Sumatran Rhinoceros

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KOTA KINABALU: Sabah has not lost all her hopes in saving the Sumatran Rhinos from extinction in Malaysia.

Sabah Wildlife Department director William Baya said in a statement yesterday that although the Sumatran Rhino population in the wild in Sabah looked grim, with the capture of the female rhino Puntung in Tabin in 2012, there has been a lack of any more signs of rhinos there even with frequent teams going in and hundreds of camera traps set in the forest to look for the rhinos.

“The same goes for Danum Valley. After we caught a female rhino, Iman, in 2014, we are also seeing the same scenario there. There is no evidence of any rhinos in the wild there,” he said.

“Sadly, Danum Valley and Tabin Wildlife Reserve used to be our two most important areas for rhinos but now it seems there are none left.”

Baya said the SWD partners comprising of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) were still having smaller teams looking for rhinos and investigating any alleged sightings of rhinos in the forest but so far with no success.

“Our only hope for our Sumatran Rhinos probably now rests on our three captive Sumatran Rhinos now housed at the Borneo Rhino Sanctuary in Tabin,” he said

Unfortunately, the three rhinos in captivity are also not reproductively sound.

Tam, the male which was caught in 2008 has very low sperm count.

Puntng suffers from multiple ovarian and uterine cysts, while Iman has a football sized tumor in her uterus.

“We will be applying advanced reproductive techniques such as Intercellular Sperm Insemination to produce an embryo. To achieve this we are working closely with a group of German experts from the Institute of Zoo and Wildlife, Berlin as well as a Malaysian group of experts from UPM and MARDI based at Agro Biotechnology Institute in Serdang.”

He added that the next step was to find a suitable healthy surrogate mother to be impregnated with the embryo.

“The only other place to find a healthy surrogate mother would probably be Indonesia. If we really want to save this rhino from extinction, both Malaysia and Indonesia have to work together. We here in Sabah and even the federal government are more than willing to do this for the sake of saving this species,” he said.

He added that in the recent Heart of Borneo meeting which was held in Sandakan, there seemed to be renewed interest for this to happen when Malaysia brought the issue up.

“The Indonesian delegation mentioned that they would bring this matter up with their superiors for further deliberation.”

Borneo Rhino Alliance (BORA) executive director Datuk Dr Junaidi Payne recently told The Borneo Post that he was 99.9 per cent certain that there were no more Sumatran rhinoceros in the wild in Malaysia (Sabah).

Tourism, Culture and Environment Minister Datuk Masidi Manjun said the Sabah government was willing to do anything it can to save the Sumatran rhinoceros from extinction in the country, particularly in Sabah.